Okay, this is still Chapter 2 of this book. I've finished Chapter 2, mind you, but she covers several different topics, so I'm going to try and break up my posts into the topics instead of one, humongous long post. :)
**DISCLAIMER: I'm summarizing what the author says in this book, without editorializing. By no means should any of this be taken to be my opinion or my agreeing with her. Or should the assumption be made that what she states is correct or true.**
She starts with the question that many people ask, can Muslims use ancient texts for explanation and guidance in the modern world? Of course, she brings up immediately the point that *any* follower of *any* religion accepts the universality of their respective doctrine. Whether you speak of the Torah and the Jews, the Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the Christians, or the Qur'an and Muslims - all believers believe that their texts were meant not only for the specific times of their revelations, but for all time. Meant to guide their followers throughout the ages.
Some, undoubtedly, would still question whether any Abrahamic (or, indeed, any faith at all) can be looked at for ideas such as pluralism and individual autonomy or if that isn't merely forcing modernist notions of human rights and other democratic ideals on a message revealed in another era. She claims that for issues not explicitly mentioned in the Qur'an, *modern* scholars must evaluate the historical context at the time of the Qur'an and interpolate universal principles that can be applied to contemporary issues. "The message of Islam is subject to ijtihad and ijma. In every age, reason is applied to its constant principles to arrive at a consensus of interpretation for that age."
As to the 'raging debate' within Islam on how Islam relates to other cultures and other religions, Ms. Bhutto believed that Islam had, throughout its history, actually embraced other cultures and religions in ways far more accommodating and respectful than any of the other monotheistic religions in their early periods. While Islam now has the image (and attitude) of being closed and intolerant, in its beginning, and at the true heart, nothing is further from the truth. Much as extremists would like to believe (and have the world believe) otherwise.
"Islam accepts as a fundamental principle the fact that humans were created into different societies and religions, and that they will remain different: 'And if your Lord had pleased He would certainly have made people a single nation, and they shall continue to differ.' And: 'And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?' God did not will everyone on earth to be adherents of one religion or members of one culture. If He had wanted this, He would have ordained it so. This means that God created diversity and asked believers to be just and to desire justice in the world. Thus it flows that God wants tolerance of other religions and cultures, which are also created by Him.
"The Qur'an reveals that God sent 120,000 prophets. Thus, it can be argued that in a Muslim state, diverse points of view will be represented and must be protected. The Qur'an does not simply preach tolerance of other religions; it also acknowledges that salvation can be achieved in all monotheistic religions. Freedom of choice, especially in matters of faith, is a cornerstone of quranic values. This freedom, of course, leads to pluralism in religion, both within Islam and outside. The quranic preference for freedom of choice clearly manifests a divine desire for pluralism and religious diversity; examples of this from the Qur'an are clear and striking: 'You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.' The Qur'an unambiguously desires choice in religious matters.
"Quite remarkably and uniquely, the Qur'an acknowledges that other religions can lead to salvation. For example, the Holy Book says: 'Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.'
"Islam embraces all humanity under one God, discrediting all other exclusive religious claims to salvation. I don't believe there is anything quite like this in any religion on earth."
The Qur'an promotes religious pluralism. It does not seek to 'cancel out' or supersede the previous revelations. Rather, the multitude of monotheistic religions is seen by God as serving a purpose: the establishment of morally upright and ethical people. God created man with intrinsic values of justice and equality. This global community that God created is commanded to 'strive with one another to hasten virtuous deeds' or, in other translations, 'compete with one another in good works.'
The Qur'an, according to Ms. Bhutto, specially sanctifies those who believe in the one true God, and live a good and virtuous life. It does not say that only Islam is the route to salvation. "No human being can limit divine mercy in any way."
Islam believes that people must be allowed choice in religion, and that no religion can be forced upon people. Contrast this basic core value to those who claim Islam as their faith, but would force everyone to be Muslim. And not just Muslim, but *their* version of Islam. Conversion or death - the spread of Islam by the 'sword'. Ms. Bhutto believed, deeply, that this is antithetical to Islam, and to the desires of God Himself for the world He created. If He didn't delight in variety and desire it, why create it?
She believed that Islam encourages pluralism. It encourages peaceful coexistence with others. It is God who created the universe into many tribes and nations. All are created equal before God. All have a common ethical responsibility toward one another, having been, as she says, created from a single soul (Adam). This, she says, this concept of equality, is what underlies the pluralism and tolerance at the heart of Islam.
"It is ironic that many Muslim societies became intolerant with the passage of time while Western nations became more accepting of the tolerance and pluralism of Islam. Islam accepts as worthy of salvation all those who believe in one god as the Master and Creator. In Christianity, Jesus is the only route to salvation: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.'
"In contract to other great religions' attitudes toward non adherents, Muslims accept Jews and Christians as 'people of the Book.' Thus Muslim global terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, display a striking ignorance of Islam. They distort the message of Islam while at the same time using the name of religion to attract people to a path to terrorism. Bin Laden claims, 'The enmity between us and the Jews goes back far in time and is deep rooted. There is no question that war between the two of us is inevitable.' This comment contradicts 1,300 years or peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Jews, specifically in the Middle East and Spain. In fact, relations between the two communities were historically quite good. Indeed, when the Jews of Spain were expelled during the Inquisition, those who fled chose - almost without exception - to relocate in Muslim nations, where they knew they would be welcomed and accepted, and actually were.
"The same sort of bigotry, inconsistent with the teachings of the Prophet and the tenets of Islam, was recently presented by Anjum Chaudri, a radical British mullah, in a BBC interview with Stephen Sackur. Chaudri rather remarkable said, 'When we say 'innocent people' we mean Muslims, as far as non-Muslims are concerned...they have not accepted Islam, as far as we are concerned that is a crime against God.' He went on to say that 'you must hate and love for the sake of Allah...I must have hatred toward everything which is not Islam.' His statements are a contradiction of the Islamic message, which considers believers in one God to be 'Muslims' and accepts the sanctity of all the primary religious texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Nevertheless, these hateful misinterpretations receive media attention and thus become part of the infectious distortion of Islam.
"Recently on American television, the right-wing commentator Ann Coulter created a great stir by suggesting that Jews needed to be 'perfected' and by being perfected would become Christians. She repeatedly called Christians 'perfected Jews.' There is no parallel concept of exclusion anywhere in Islamic holy texts and doctrine. In Islam, all monotheistic religions are seen as paths to salvation. In Islam, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and all those who believe in a monotheistic god will be judged by their human conduct while on earth by God and not on the basis of the specific religion that they practice."
And...wow. That wound up being long anyway.